The tally of five dismissals in two matches - three in Denmark v South Africa (a World Cup record) and then two in France v Saudi Arabia - was the direct result of an intervention by Fifa's new president, Sepp Blatter. Earlier in the week, he had twice declared that referees had been too lenient in the tournament so far and been ignoring instructions to be tough on tackles from behind.
Yesterday, though, there seemed to be a split in the ranks over Thursday's carnage. Blatter was backing the two card-happy referees - but Michel Platini, the co-president of the World Cup organising committee, felt that they had gone too far.
"One moment they don't hand out enough cards, and the next they hand out too many. The referees need to be a bit more careful," Platini said. That was in contrast to Blatter's response to events.
"I am happy that they heard and understood my message," Blatter said. "Thursday's referees did their job properly. Certain players had gone too far in the early matches. I think they have got the message now."
Zinedine Zidane, the French playmaker who was dismissed for stamping on a Saudi opponent, yesterday had his one-game ban increased to two matches by Fifa's disciplinary committee. He fared better than Alfred Phiri, though, The South African, harshly sent off for flailing his arms in a collision with a Danish opponent, has been banned for three matches.
Miklos Molnar, one of two Danes sent off against South Africa, is suspended for two games. The other, Morten Wieghorst, received the standard one- match suspension.
The England coach, Glenn Hoddle, yesterday urged a return to the "common sense" he felt had been displayed by officials in the first week of the tournament.
"I thought in the first games that the balance was right," Hoddle said. "There might've been a couple of isolated incidents where there could have been red cards, but all in all it wasn't too bad.
"We said coming into the tournament that the first five days before we played would give us a chance to look at what was going to happen and how they were going to interpret the laws. Now it's almost as if we're starting all over again.
"Obviously it's a concern. Suddenly there's been a drastic swing around," Hoddle added. "As long as it's the tackle from behind that's punished, that's fine. We all want that eradicated from the game. But it's got to be sensible and have a balance about it. Suddenly referees are going into other areas where they're looking to give yellow or red cards from other situations.
"There were sendings-off yesterday that didn't warrant it," the England coach said. "It will be a shame if the referees are getting carried away. They shouldn't be dishing out red and yellows left, right and centre just for the sake of it."Reuse content